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Scientific Name: Floridian Highlands Freshwater Marsh
Unique Identifier: CES203.077
Image 21983
© Brenda Herring
Summary: This system represents non-tidal marsh vegetation in the peninsula of Florida and in the Tallahassee area. These highland marshes occupy different types of depressions such as former lake basins, shallow peat-filled valleys, and zones around existing natural lakes. The marshes and the basins they occur within are unstable over time due to subsurface subsidence and drainage pattern changes. In some examples, surface waterflow is generally lacking due to the presence of limestone near the surface, but water levels have fluctuated greatly over time. Soils range from mucky surfaces to sandy loams or sands, but slowly permeable subsoils contribute to the presence of standing water for much of the year. The vegetation mosaic includes a range of mostly herbaceous plant communities that may be referred to as marshes, meadows, and prairies, collectively comprising a relatively diverse number of associations. Permanent water bodies support a range of submerged and floating aquatic species. Areas with approximately a meter of standing water tend to support dense stands of emergent herbaceous perennials, often in monospecific stands; species include Typha latifolia, Pontederia cordata, Nelumbo lutea, and others. Where there is less water (usually present only during wet season), more graminoid vegetation is present, with species such as Panicum hemitomon, Leersia hexandra, and others. With historic water level fluctuations, the vegetation mosaic has also changed, sometimes quite rapidly.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system was originally intended to cover Paynes Prairie only, but the concept was greatly expanded to include other non-tidal marsh vegetation of Florida, including that around natural lakes, as well as the large Kissimmee and St. Johns River marshes. The Kissimmee and St. Johns River marshes also occur within floodplains but are influenced by somewhat different processes than typical highland marshes. These were formerly considered part of Florida River Floodplain Marsh (CES203.055).

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.055 Florida River Floodplain Marsh
CES411.485 South Florida Slough, Gator Hole and Willow Head

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL003940 Cladium mariscus Marsh
CEGL004423 Salix caroliniana / Decodon verticillatus / Typha latifolia Swamp Forest
CEGL004457 Cephalanthus occidentalis / Limnobium spongia - Salvinia minima Shrub Swamp
CEGL004460 Andropogon (capillipes, glaucopsis) - Rhynchospora fascicularis var. fascicularis - Rhexia mariana Wet Meadow
CEGL004461 Panicum hemitomon - Pontederia cordata Marsh
CEGL004462 Typha latifolia - Pontederia cordata Marsh
CEGL004470 Nelumbo lutea - Pontederia cordata - Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani Marsh
CEGL004471 Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis - Peltandra virginica - Sagittaria lancifolia Marsh
CEGL004474 Pontederia cordata Marsh
CEGL004511 Spartina bakeri - Muhlenbergia filipes - Andropogon glomeratus - Rhynchospora colorata Marsh
CEGL007052 Salix caroliniana Coastal Plain Wet Shrubland


Land Cover Class: Herbaceous Wetland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: No
Wetland: Yes
Isolated Wetland: Partially Isolated

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Depressional Sinkhole

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Isolated Wetland Partially Isolated

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Neofiber alleni
  (Round-tailed Muskrat)

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Cephalanthus occidentalis G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Hypericum fasciculatum G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Pontederia cordata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Sagittaria lancifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Panicum hemitomon G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Acris gryllus
  (Southern Cricket Frog)
Deirochelys reticularia
  (Chicken Turtle)
Lithobates grylio
  (Pig Frog)
Lithobates sphenocephalus
  (Southern Leopard Frog)
Neofiber alleni
  (Round-tailed Muskrat)
Notophthalmus viridescens
  (Eastern Newt)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: FL, GApotentially occurs
Global Range: This system is found in the Florida Peninsula and in the Tallahassee Hills/Valdosta Limesink area, possibly ranging into adjacent Georgia. See map in Kushlan (1990, p. 327).

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
203-Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
53 East Gulf Coastal Plain Confident or certain
55 Florida Peninsula Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
55 Southeastern Coastal Plain Confident or certain
56 Floridian Coastal Plain Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9214
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1489
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2489

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 21Feb2017
Element Description Author(s): R. Evans, C.W. Nordman and M. Pyne

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • FNAI [Florida Natural Areas Inventory]. 2010a. Guide to the natural communities of Florida: 2010 edition. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, FL. 228 pp. []

  • Kushlan, J. A. 1990. Freshwater marshes. Pages 324-363 in: R. L. Myers and J. J. Ewel, editors. Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press, Orlando.

  • Patton, J. E., and W. S. Judd. 1986. Vascular flora of Paynes Prairie Basin and Alachua Sink Hammock, Alachua County, Florida. Castanea 51:88-110.

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Data last updated: March 2019